Family Systems and the Addictive Process

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PSY 234

       Course Name: Family Systems and the Addictive Process

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course explores various family systems theories. Content includes patterns of communication, roles adopted by family members, and development of identity and self-esteem in the family. Focus is on relationship of dysfunctional family systems to addictive process, and methods of helping families move to healthier level of functioning.

IV.   Learning Objectives

The student will:

  1. examine the family as a complex, homeostatic system with emphasis on family rules, boundaries and roles.
  2. understand how one's own family system influenced their development and behavior and the importance of working through unresolved/ongoing issues.
  3. explore therapeutic models for the family as a system.
  4. understand how addictions and high stress family systems develop and affect the individual and the family as a system.
  5. understand co-dependency and enabling in the dysfunctional family system.
  6. be able to identify the development of roles in the family particularly in reaction to dysfunctional family systems, high stress families and addictions.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. The Structure and Process of Family Systems
    1. patterns of family interaction
    2. functional and dysfunctional family systems
    3. expressions of family dysfunction
  2. Historical and Theoretical Foundations of Family Systems Theory and Addictive Process Models
  3. Origins, Roots and Growth of Family Therapy
  4. Theoretical Perspectives in Family Therapy
    1. psychodynamic and related models
    2. experiential/humanistic models
    3. family systems theory
    4. structural family therapy
    5. communication models
    6. behavioral models
    7. recovery models
  5. The Addictive Family System
    1. family roles
    2. codependency
    3. enabling
    4. pathological responses
    5. shame
    6. dysfunction in the family

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Methods of instruction may include lectures, discussions, readings, papers, audio-visual resources, individual and group projects, simulations, guest speakers, case studies, exercises, group interactions, and role playing.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

  1. Attendance
  2. Papers - Students will be required to write for the class the equivalent of 12-15 typed pages of material that will be graded. This writing may take the form of a research or term paper, summaries of journal articles, and/or a series of shorter, analytical papers.
  3. Tests and exams
  4. Reading
  5. Participation in class discussions
  6. Projects and reports

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Representative texts may include:

Lawson, Ann W. and Lawson, Gary. (1998). Alcoholism and the Family: A Guide to Treatment and Prevention. (2nd ed.). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Sheff, David. (2009). Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Sheff, Nic. (2008). Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

  1. Papers
  2. Tests
  3. Projects
  4. Attendance

XI.   Other Course Information

  1. Mandatory attendance
  2. Course policies
  3. Important dates

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.